Excerpt for The Frankie Miller Band Investigate Dracula by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Frankie Miller Band Investigate Dracula

Maggie Kraus

Published by Sixth Element Publishing

Arthur Robinson House

13-14 The Green

Billingham TS23 1EU

Tel: 01642 360253

© Maggie Kraus 2018

Maggie Kraus asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

Poem excerpt from The Fairies by William Allingham

This work is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters, organisations, places, events and incidents portrayed are either products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

For my dear granddaughter, Cora.

Chapter 1

As the tiny bottle slipped from his hand and slid to the floor in what seemed to be slow motion, Will screeched in desperation. He stood rooted to the spot as he heard himself moaning, “Nooooo!”

If it hadn’t been raining that afternoon, Will wouldn’t have been mooching about at home and the stain wouldn’t have happened. He could have met up with his two best friends, Jonesy and Sammy, as planned, and together they would now be… Will looked at the clock… yep, they’d have been putting the roof on their new secret den in Magson’s field.

He looked again at the carpet. What had begun as a large bead of blood-coloured liquid was beginning to shape-shift at an alarming rate. He rubbed it with a piece of discarded tissue from under his bed. Now it looked even worse – like a stain from a serious stab wound. He did a quick finger-tip-search in the unknown dark under his bed for anything else that would blot the red mark. Nothing. No grubby clothes ready for the washing basket. No cloths – but then, why would there be?

In a panic now, he hunted out an old shirt from his cupboard, threw it on the floor and stamped on it a few times, spreading the mark and widening it even more. He froze.

“This is hopeless,” he said, staring at the stain, wishing it would go away with just the power of thought.

Downstairs, he could hear Sumi, his young sister, laughing with her three friends, then the sound of someone clodhopping up the stairs two-at-a-time. That would be Bethany, the ungainly one. Sumi was so slight and graceful that he hardly heard her moving about the place. He kept stock still, hardly daring to move until he heard…

“Found it!” screeched by Bethany; then the steps again, THUD, THUD, THUDDING downwards. Thank goodness she hadn’t come into his room.

It was some minutes before he breathed freely again and moved from his frozen position on his knees by the bedside.

A few minutes later, the front door slammed and a contrasting stillness fell upon the house. The girls had risked the downpour and were walking in the direction of Bethany’s house. Will watched them from the window. They were a colourful little group in their floral macs and pink wellies, he thought as he picked up his copy of ‘Seeking the Supernatural’ magazine from the bedside table and tried not to think about the stain or his sister any more.

Sumi’s arrival at the Broome house just three years ago had been quite sudden and not altogether welcome.

“Why can’t she go back home to her real family?” he’d demanded.

His parents had tried to explain patiently at the time that she was a refugee and her parents had died on the journey to Britain so they had decided to adopt her. “She’s been through a lot and you must try to make her welcome,” they said. They’d hoped she would be company for Will, rather than bring him up as an only child.

Will, hackles up, had not co-operated. Sumi’s presence in his life was unwelcome and he’d kept up a campaign of hostility for quite a time, but now he’d managed to get used to her – as long as she didn’t interfere with his many plans or his friends.

The worst bit, in Will’s mind, was that she looked up to him and thought he could do no wrong. Having a young girl as his number one fan was awful. He continued to ignore her as much as possible and found that it made the situation more bearable.

“After all, it looks like she’s here to stay,” he’d told Jonesy, at the end of a particularly trying day, when they’d both been complaining about how complicated families could be. “Trouble is, Sumi’s always so… so good. She never gets told off about anything. So I get it instead of her.”

They were both silent for a while, feeling sorry for themselves, then Will, thinking he’d had a brilliant idea, suggested a swap.

“Here, what if I take your Izzy and you put up with Sumi? On a trial basis at first, of course?”

Jonesy’s response had surprised him. Looking shocked, he’d backed away saying, “But, I couldn’t swap Izzy. She’s my sister,” and apart from wondering what difference that made, Will hadn’t known how to reply, so he just carried on whittling an old stick into a wizard’s wand and hummed under his breath, until Jonesy had calmed down a bit and continued with the spell he was working on. Jonesy’s reaction still puzzled Will months later.

“Now, where’s that spell for changing the future?” he asked himself as he rummaged through the piles of witchcraft magazines under his bed. He found the appropriate spell in an article written in the February issue by someone who called himself ‘Grand Wizard Woolstone’. Pulling out a dead frog from under his mattress, admirably squashed and dried by now, he tried to remember what the rest of the ingredients were. He picked up the tatty well-thumbed magazine and it fell open at the spell.

Warning: All of the ingredients listed herein must be acquired by accidental means. No living creature should be maimed or killed in the process of creating the spell or the alchemy will fail and the effect could be dire.’

He almost knew it by heart by now and, true to the Wizard’s instructions, he had found the frog in the middle of the road, already partially dried out, and had seized on it as if it were treasure trove.

‘I need something solid to use as a table-top,’ he decided, ‘protect the carpet from further staining. A bit late now, but at least it’ll look like I was trying to be sensible.’

He looked at himself in the mirror and blushed at the lie.

Will had managed to cadge a few bits of very serviceable wooden plank from Jonesy’s uncle when he and Sammy had last visited. He fished it out and tried to make it cover a wider area of the stained carpet.

“That’ll do,” he muttered, only half satisfied.

It still looked awful.

Will’s friend Jonesy thought of himself as a bit of an inventor. He had always loved building daft things, like model bi-planes that would never fly (too heavy) and other unworkable gadgets.

Will smiled as he recalled the last one – foldy-up toothbrushes whose duct tape hinges stuck to your fingers when you tried to use them. Will still had one stuck in his jeans pocket.

His other friend, Sammy, was a dab hand at ‘finding’ stuff too; some of it had ended up in Will’s bedroom. Unfortunately, the latest find was starting to have a bit of a whiff about it. His friend had sworn it was a dinosaur leg but there was something that looked like synthetic fur on it and he’d come to the conclusion that it was just a half-chewed toy from next door’s dog’s Christmas stocking.

‘It still might work though,’ he thought, ever hopeful. ‘I’ll give it a go.’

Will loved magic. Tricks, illusions, ghostly apparitions, monsters, anything out of the ordinary really. At present he was playing around with the idea of a magic potion but wasn’t sure what he’d want it to do exactly. Still, as he confided to Jonesy, “As long as it smells funny and has eye-of-newt and toe-of-frog in it, there’ll be some kind of end result, surely?” Sadly, he had no idea where he could find either of these items lying around his tidy garden. The squashed frog had been found in the middle of the road some months ago, but since then, nothing.

The next idea didn’t come suddenly to him. It sort of seeped into his brain like the stain on the carpet, and spread – a dangerous reddish-evil mess which insisted on being noticed.

‘Why don’t I make a spell that will take Sumi back to… where exactly? Was it the Philippines? Somewhere in the East?’ He stopped himself. This was bad. The poor girl hadn’t done any harm at all. But, the devil on his left shoulder said, “This is your family, isn’t it? Not hers.”

His mean thoughts shocked him. ‘Better get rid of that idea and push it out of my brain right now,’ he decided.

He looked around his bedroom. It was neat and very tidy and pretty small compared to Sammy’s, but Will liked it. He started wondering yet again what ‘being a refugee’ actually meant and felt a pang of guilt when he realised, ‘If you didn’t have a home, you couldn’t have a bedroom, right?’

Pushing that awful thought to one side, he recalled the conversation he’d had with his dad when he’d last had a ‘great idea’. “But Dad, it’ll look good in black and purple. And I can get the lads round to help me?” (silence) “… and it won’t cost much ’cos I saw an advert and B&Q has a paint sale on…” His voice had trailed off at that point and he’d had to let it go in case his dad’s face turned the very shade of paint he’d fancied on his bedroom walls. That was when he’d realised he was pushing his luck a bit and changed the subject.

The cupboards in his room were crammed full of bizarre odds and ends that might come in useful one day. Good thing his mam didn’t look into them very often.

He glanced round and took in the walls, painted very simply in a colour described on the pot as ‘Hebridean Mist’ which, in reality, was a greyish-green and had been the subject of another disagreement with his mother.

The bed was tidy, but covered with an embarrassing cartoon duvet he’d had for ages. He always hid his old toy bear under his pillow – another source of embarrassment. He loved the bear but well, you know, not when his mates were around.

‘The rest of it’s okay,’ he decided. Especially the pictures of his favourite actors and his favourite films all over the walls. There was one he was not allowed to put up though – “for fear of nightmares,” his mam had said.

It was a poster of the original ‘Dracula’ film – another of Sammy’s finds, filched from his brother’s wardrobe after the brother had gone to college. Sammy had told him that, “this film was made about a hundred years ago at least,” but that didn’t make it any less scary. At the time, Will remembered, he’d complained loudly to his mates about not being allowed to see it.

“Why can’t our parents treat us like adults?”

The friends nodded and sympathised, but Will was secretly relieved that he wasn’t allowed to display the poster.

You see, he did believe in vampires and was afraid and at the same time thrilled that they might exist – and that he might meet one some dark night.

“I mean, where would the idea come from, if there wasn’t any truth in it?” he’d demanded during a classroom discussion on the supernatural.

Miss Durning, his teacher, countered with, “Where everything comes from Will - the imagination.”

Most of the class sniggered at this, but his friends kept very loyal straight faces and backed him up.

That all seemed a long time ago now. He pushed his unruly mop of brown hair out of his eyes and stared disconsolately out of the rain-blotched window. No sign of a let-up yet.

Pretending to himself that he had no evil intentions with this spell, he checked the magic book again and began his work.

He assembled the potion, having found most of the stuff he needed in the kitchen cupboards, including the red liquid now changing the colour of the carpet, but then he realised he had no idea what to conjure. He idly read the back of the bottle. The stuff was called ‘cochineal’ and when he looked it up in the dictionary he found it was made by grinding up the bodies of beetles into a fine powder.

“Oo, I like that!” he said, feeling some satisfaction.

He set to with renewed energy.

“What kind of future do I want?” he asked aloud.

“Not to grow up?” he responded, not entirely sure it would be a good thing or, “Not to grow up too soon?” He thought again… or, “To have magic powers?” and then, out of nowhere, “Or to get rid of Sumi?”

He fell back onto his bed, having shocked himself.

‘Where is this coming from?’ he wondered, shaking his head slowly as he tried to clear away the bad thoughts. The trouble was, the more ideas he thought up, the more he could see the flaws in them. Maybe it was wiser to let the future take care of itself? And maybe he should just leave Sumi out of it altogether?

It was just as well he didn’t know what the future held, as there was about to be a big upheaval for the whole family, which would change the way he felt about Sumi and the future forever.

Chapter 2

That same evening, Will’s father knocked tentatively on his door. Hastily hiding the spell-making equipment under the bed and putting the light out, Will tried to sound sleepy.

“Come in,” he yawned.

With the half-light behind him, his dad looked huge and scary. The features of his face were hidden in shadow so it was hard for Will to see his expression, but the voice was quiet and serious – a bad sign.

Although he tried to concentrate, Will found it hard to follow his dad’s words. Something about “Grandad Wilf in Cornwall.” Will was aware that his grandad was ill but hadn’t realised he’d been in hospital or had an operation. There was also the worrying fact of the stain, now covered by a book in the hope that it would buy him a bit more cleaning-up time. Luckily, his dad had more important things to think of.

“…so you see, me and your mam need to go down to help Grandad get better. He won’t be able to look after himself for some time, and Auntie Mavis has to work ’til the end of the month, but she said she’d love to have you and Sumi to stay with her in Whitby while we’re in Cornwall. Just think,” he said, “you’d have an extra two weeks holiday this summer.”

Will heard the desperation in his dad’s voice and had the good sense not to say what he was thinking, which was, ‘What about Jonesy and Sammy and the new den? WHAT ABOUT THE SPELLS?’

He loved Whitby and he loved staying with Auntie Mavis who spoiled him. But what about the next issue of ‘Vampire Times’ too – the magazine he produced during school lunchtimes with his friends?

He didn’t mention any of these things, though. He simply said, “I’m dead tired, dad. Can this wait till tomorrow?” and tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

The next morning, Will awoke from a horrible dream where a strange creature had been trying to get its claws into Sammy’s neck and Will had watched, paralysed.

Try as he might, his limbs would not move.

Sammy had screeched “Gerroff! Help me, Will!” but, Will had just been rooted to the spot.

Looking round at the familiar curtains with the comforting morning light streaming through the gaps where he hadn’t closed them properly, Will heaved a massive sigh of relief. It was just a dream. Nobody was in peril after all. He hadn’t let his friend down. He wasn’t a coward.

Despite the dream, or perhaps because of it, Will was able to appear reasonably cheerful when he responded to his mother’s call to breakfast and a family conference.

They were all there. Sumi looked smaller and quieter than usual but said nothing. His parents looked worried, like they had when he was ill with the flu last winter. He grinned, falsely hearty.

“So, Sumi, we’re off to the seaside. That’ll be good, eh?”

His mam shot a grateful glance his way, and joined in – mainly to convince herself that all would be well. “Oh yes, Sumi, I can just imagine the two of you making sandcastles and searching for crabs in the rock pools.” She beamed at them, conjuring up a lovely picture of her own childhood holidays at the seaside.

“Yeah,” he continued as he poured milk on his cereal, “you can go on a boat trip – maybe even in the lifeboat. And the fish and chips in Whitby are the best in the country.”

He watched Sumi’s reactions. It was clear that she didn’t know quite where Whitby was. She hadn’t been anywhere much and didn’t know enough about distances to realise that she wasn’t going very far at all. Will knew nothing about the holding camp she’d had to live in for ages before she’d been adopted by his parents, but now he tried to put himself in her place.

To Sumi, England now meant this house and the small town she was familiar with – the only place she really knew. It was her whole world and the place she felt happy and safe in. Will thought that Whitby probably sounded strange and alien to her and he should really try to find some images or old photos of Auntie Mavis’s house to reassure her. Maybe later…

He sat beside her and patted her hand, feeling like a hypocrite.

Looking trustingly back, she asked, “What if the people there don’t like me or understand me? What if I can’t understand them?” She turned to Will, anxiously. “Isn’t it supposed to be cold and bleak there? Bethany’s dad said it was.”

He laughed. “Oh, yeah, you’ll need new fleeces and boots, probably.”

He noticed the puzzled looks his mother was giving him and realised he wasn’t helping, but he couldn’t stay patient much longer. Was he going to have to mollycoddle this child for the next few weeks? And without his mates to keep him sane?

Sumi interrupted his train of thought. “At least you’re going too, Will,” she smiled.

He felt even more trapped now she’d said it aloud.

“He’ll take care of me – he always does – and I can write to my friends and send postcards, like they do when they go on holiday. I have a beautiful one of the Norfolk lavender fields from Bethany. I pinned it to the wall in my room.”

Will had stopped listening. His brain was alive with the awful future conjured up in his mind. He tried again to focus on what was happening at the table.

His mam was still speaking – about candyfloss – but Will realised Sumi was only half understanding. Ah well, there would be time for her to find out about it later. He could see the confusion though; it must’ve sounded as though she’d be flossing her teeth with candy.

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